Apple News+ magazines on a 12.9-inch iPad Pro should look and feel amazing, but sadly that’s not the case today. In this post I’ll show what is frustrating about the experience and how things could be improved.
Here's a current A-list magazine and my iPad side-by-side. We can see they're similar enough in size:
Now here’s what it looks like when you open this magazine on the iPad:
The frustration begins and the reading experience is interrupted as soon as you notice you’re not able to see the whole cover without scrolling.
The frustration continues a few seconds after starting to read the cover: it’s not sharp and in Retina-resolution, but blurry and noticeably pixelated. You’d be forgiven for thinking we're waiting for a progressive JPEG to load, but this is it.
This is strange to me. How could this be? What part of the pipeline could be limiting the magazine covers from looking sharp?
The covers should be sharp, Retina-resolution images. They would be a lot more fun to view too if they were "fit" instead of "filled" on the screen. Here's a quick mockup of how that could look:
Tables of Contents
Here's the table of contents from that same issue of Vogue:
Now here's what it looks like when you open the table of contents on the iPad:
Again the reading experience is hindered by this design decision to make exploring magazines devoid of any of the visual richness of, well, magazines.
On a print magazine, you can flip through with your fingers and get a quick sense of the photographs within. On the iPad, you have to tap in and out of the table of contents going only off of these text titles that all look the same.
The table of contents should be visually rich and hint at the photographs within. There could be interactivity here too, perhaps allowing you to preview a story without opening it, see estimated reading times, or save a story for later directly from the table of contents.
Here's a quick mockup of how it could look simply to add thumbnails to the existing design with no other changes:
Thanks for Reading
I love Apple, I love magazines, I love the HI design teams at Apple... I love all of it. That's why I'm writing this post. All I want is for these things to be improved.
I admire the people who worked on this to get it this far. I know it must be difficult to be innovating in the magazine industry, where there have been nothing but headwinds for who knows how long. It's amazing to have this breadth of choice, rolled into Apple One, at my fingertips.
But, that doesn't mean that what this app offers today isn't frustrating. I'm someone who wants to use Apple News+, who wants to tell my friends about it, share stories, and keep paying for it for the foreseeable future. And yet, I can't because many small frustrations add up to an experience that I don't look forward to repeating.
I'll be waiting patiently for that silent update someday when Apple News+ suddenly gets a whole lot better, and rooting for them all the way.